Vivi Germanos Koutsounadis was born in Greece in 1946, came to Sydney’s Glebe in 1954 and moved to Redfern three years later. In her interview Vivi talks broadly about the experience of migrant families new to Sydney, the sea voyage, factory employment, schooling, social life, food and long hours in her parents’ milk bar. In the excerpt below she recalls her family’s support for the Aboriginal community in Redfern.
The Aboriginal people were not served in hotels and shops. Our milk bar was the only milk bar in Redfern that served Aboriginal people and there was one hotel called the Empress Hotel, and that was the only hotel that served Aboriginal people.
A lot of times they used to come to our shop and they used to say “Look, you have come here [from Greece] and you’ve got a shop now. We can’t vote” because they didn’t vote until 1967 when there was the Referendum. They said “We can’t vote; our children are taken away from us if the police want it or the authorities want it. We don’t get child endowment and other things for our children” and we used to ask why, “Why is that?” “Because we’re black people”. And I think why the shop, why they were welcome there, was because when my uncle first bought the shop during war it was very tough there. Because he was a ‘wog’ they [white Australians] used to pick fights with him all the time.
So one time three whites were beating one Aboriginal man outside his shop so my uncle help him, helped the Aboriginal man, and he happened to have twelve brothers, so they really befriended my uncle and so he served them and helped them and everything, so the tradition was carried on and they knew that our shop will serve them. But also we made no distinction because they were black people. We saw them as people and that they had the same rights.